singapore

Singapore Grand Prix 2015

What a dramatic race!

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Singapore General Elections 2015

The time has come.

Well, everyone with half a brain knew it was going to happen this year, just not the exact date.

Billed as the biggest GE since forever, it really is one of the most important elections we’ll ever have. With Lee Kuan Yew gone and the results of GE2011 quite dismal for PAP’s standards, there will be no better time for the opposition to get a better foothold in the Parliament. There will be no better time for the people’s choices to make a difference, to tell the PAP that they cannot afford complacency, the same complacency that led them to lose Aljunied GRC in 2011 and continues to turn people away from them.

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Democracy, Authoritarian Capitalism, and China – Crash Course World History

YAY SINGAPORE!

Or maybe not.

At least we aren’t stuck in gridlock. But moving ahead, I feel like there needs to be change, not just for the sake of it, but to rid government of any complacency that might be lurking around the corner. Because no matter how much we try to avoid it, complacency sets in oh-so-easily.

Mr. Lee Kuan Yew

I can’t say I was unduly affected by his passing this morning. Then again, I’ve never been too deeply moved by the death of someone. Death is something everyone has to face. It’s the pain I see in others that really strikes at my heart.

But he’s a man that has had a immeasurable impact on life in Singapore and even beyond our tiny shores, and it feels only right that I pen my scattered thoughts on him.

I profess to being ambivalent about his ways. There are many things about the way Singapore is run that I disagree with on a personal level, but he stands by his ways and his thinking. He wanted the results to speak for him, and they did. We have an efficient government, a (relatively) clean city, a top-notch education system, superb healthcare and infrastructure, an economy that grows from strength to strength…I could go on and on.

I suppose he’s right in many ways. That the people are the most important, but not everyone will make the right decisions when voting. The shining example of democracy that is the US is also a paragon of inefficiency, often stuck in political deadlock due to its ridiculously petty bipartisanship. Singapore? We just do things, and citizens fall in line, complaining notwithstanding.

But then there are so many things we feel should change. Education is a rat race for grades. ERP hasn’t truly solved the traffic problem, and neither has the high COE prices. CPF continues to be a heavy point of contention, as is the high civil servant salary (but it has kept us corruption-free). The cost of living is rising, and the influx of foreign talent has everyone voicing their often negative opinions. The one-party rule that he has established has seen growing opposition in recent years.

I don’t agree with large portions of his legacy, yet I know that I can come to such conclusions only because I live in relative comfort, with an excellent education in a low-crime environment that has fostered me into a semi-independent thinker. For creating that safe bubble, he has my gratitude. For having the strength, the will, the brilliance to build Singapore from nothing into something, he has my admiration. For giving his life to Singapore and its people, he has my respect.

He left his mark on Singapore, on Asia, on the world, on us. Goodbye, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. You’ve played your part. Now it’s time we moved forward like you would want us to.

Singapore Grand Prix 2014

My home GP! Well, if I were a racer…

Qualifying

This was a pretty darn exciting qualifying, with the low-power, high-downforce circuit giving Ferrari and Red Bull hopes of reining in Mercedes. And so it proved in Q1. Lots of cars went out on track with soft tires, but had to move on to the supersofts due to a 2.5s difference per lap between the primes and options. Rosberg out-braked himself in his installation lap, and had to go into the escape road, luckily avoiding any damage or lock-ups; it could possibly be due to his new brake material.

Red Bull was the one team that stayed in, preferring to just go straight onto the options at the end of the session. Ferrari put up some impressive times, and Force India even had a go at the top with Hulkenberg, before Raikkonen took P1 ahead of the Mercs in Q1.

In Q2, the green track started to rubber in a little, but the little mistakes continued to happen. Hamilton only managed to get four hundredths of a second ahead of Raikkonen, and seven hundredths ahead of Alonso. With Ricciardo about two tenths behind in P4, the Top 4 all decided not to go out on runs again. Rosberg was surprisingly P5, and went out again as times tumbled further. But while he didn’t need to, he managed to usurp Hamilton by a huge 0.46s on fresh tires.

Button just missed Q3 by two hundredths of a second, having locked up a little apparently, while Magnussen crept into Q3. Force India, despite a decent showing in Q1, were nowhere in Q2.

Finally, in Q3, the initial runs from the Mercs were terrible, as Rosberg was on scrubbed options and Hamilton had a bad middle sector. Massa was on provisional pole, while the Mercedes were 6th and 7th. In the final runs however, they struck back, as first Ricciardo took provisional pole, then Rosberg, then Hamilton snatched it by 0.007s despite locking up into Turn 1 with a barnstorming lap.

Meanwhile, Vettel had to settle for 4th, out-qualified by Ricciardo again, while Alonso nabbed 5th ahead of Massa, who couldn’t improve much. Raikkonen suffered a lack of power, and had to rely on the times from his first run for 6th ahead of Bottas.

But in any case, the times between the drivers were all minuscule compared to the advantage Mercedes has had over the field for the past year, and with rain possibly coming tomorrow (for the first wet race in tropical Singapore ever, imagine that!), it could be a massively entertaining race.

Race

Drama, drama, drama. It never stays far away from Singapore, and yet again it was a dramatic race.

Right from the off, Rosberg had a wiring loom issue in his steering column, which meant that his steering wheel wasn’t working properly. Despite trying to find the problem and changing steering wheels, he was stuck in neutral as cars went off on the formation lap, and Rosberg was forced to do a pitlane start.

That was not his only worry, as he only had clutch controls on his steering wheel, and no pit limiter. He had to get into 1st gear and drop to 6,500rpm in order to keep below limits, and had to rev the car up on jacks before getting dropped. Not to mention he was having gear shift issues during his laps, with his shifts jumping up by 2 gears at a time.

It was no wonder that he struggled to even overtake Caterham, and when he came into the pits, he couldn’t restart the car and had to retire. He wasn’t the only one who saw issues on lap 0, as Kobayashi had to stop at a run-off area with a loss of oil pressure. But Rosberg’s retirement meant that if Hamilton won the race, he would take the Drivers’ Championship lead by 3 points.

As the race started, Hamilton got away cleanly as Alonso had a blinding start, as did Vettel, who took Ricciardo at Turn 1. Alonso took too much speed into the chicane though, and cut it. He gave a place back to Vettel, but held firm ahead of Ricciardo which kept him from getting a penalty.

Raikkonen was doing well at this stage, while the two McLarens had a bit of a squabble and let the Williams past. Magnussen got into a bit of trouble for exceeding track limits when fighting Bottas, but as the Williams got ahead later, he didn’t get a penalty. Meanwhile, out in front, Hamilton started to pull away from Vettel slowly as the field spread out.

As the first round of pitstops came and went, Alonso started to reel in Vettel, who was told to ignore the beeps, signals for gear changing that would give optimal fuel consumption. He was possibly already saving fuel and tires when he pitted, as the pitwall told him he couldn’t make the undercut on Hamilton.

Massa then tried the undercut with the 2nd set of pitstops, and Ferrari did the same. Red Bull went with primes instead of options like Alonso did, and Alonso’s undercut worked as he got past the two Red Bulls and was right behind Hamilton. But Red Bull were saving their powder for a end-of-the-race run at Alonso.

Lewis then had a slow stop, as the mechanics tried to clear debris from his front wing, and put on options again. Next came the inevitable at Singapore, as Perez had contact with Sutil ahead of him, and his wing collapsed, flying underneath his car and scattering debris everywhere. The safety car naturally came out, and both Ferraris pitted quickly, as did Button who had to switch strategies. Alonso ended up behind both Red Bulls, and all three and many more behind them were all on primes, and thinking of going to the end, afraid that if they pitted, then overtaking could be difficult in a street circuit.

During the safety car, we heard some interesting radio calls, such as Ricciardo’s car problem since before Perez’s problem, and Magnussen’s water too hot to drink. Maldonado also had to pit again after the wrong tires were put on his car, and that was after he ripped a wheel gun off when he drove away too quickly. Sutil didn’t get a penalty for causing a collision with Perez, but got a 5s stop-go for overtaking Bianchi off track. Not that it mattered, as he retired later in the race, joining his teammate Gutierrez who also retired earlier with an ERS problem.

With Hamilton having not put on the primes yet, he had to make another pitstop. This meant that he had to smash out a humongous gap on everyone else while on the faster supersofts, before pitting and hopefully not having to overtake anyone. He did so with much frustration,worried about his tires falling off even as he managed to get 25s on Vettel behind him in what was about 15 laps on not-so-fresh tires. Granted, there was about 2.5s difference in compounds, but it was still a mighty effort.

As he pitted, he came out just ahead of Ricciardo, and quickly hunted down and took Vettel within the lap with his fresh tires. And then he disappeared off into the darkness as the fights hotted up behind him. Kvyat was apparently struggling with the heat and dehydration, with no water from the out lap as he fought with Ericsson for position. Perez managed to overtake both in one swift move as Kvyat pulled one on Ericsson, having had to pit for a new wing.

Further ahead, Button was catching Bottas, but couldn’t overtake as the Williams was too fast on the straights despite doing a 2-stop strategy with seriously old primes. Then, unfortunately, Button’s car reset itself, and he had to stop, bringing an end to his race. Bottas was then set upon by Raikkonen, and just kept the Ferrari at bay. This only meant that he started to hold up other cars, forming a long train.

Vergne, earlier having exceeded track limits when overtaking Maldonado, had to endure a 5s penalty. Pitting much later than everyone, he quickly set about overtaking people, with both Force Indias, Raikkonen and Bottas all settled within a lap. Then he tried to push out a 5s gap on P7, which he managed and so kept his 6th place, a fine showing from him.

Perez, also with fresh tires, took his teammate, then got Raikkonen, and Bottas, and managed P7. Bottas had really no grip at the end of the race, and skated on the track like it was raining, letting Raikkonen and Hulkenberg past him.

The battle behind was fascinating, but the tension in front was mad, as Alonso bore down on Ricciardo, while Ricciardo sniffed around Vettel. The trio ran around the circuit with old tires, each trying to keep their position or overtake, but in the end, they came home in that order, with less than 2s separating all three.

Behind them, for a lonely 5th, was Massa, who was out of the action most of the time. After him came Vergne, Perez, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, and Magnussen, who got ahead of Bottas in the closing stages as well. The Lotuses trudged home after them, then Kvyat, who apparently was so dehydrated he had to be half-pulled out of his car. Ericsson did well to come home ahead of the Marussias, although Chilton had a litany of pitstop problems and Bianchi was nursing his car too.

So all in all, a massively dramatic race, and Hamilton has a slender 3 point lead for the final 5 GPs. Anything can happen, it seems, in Formula 1, and I can’t wait for Suzuka.

Singapore Has Banned an Archie Comic for Depicting a Gay Wedding

Someone complained about these? Seriously, how is a depiction of gays any worse than Fifty Shades of Grey?

I want to buy MDA’s words. I really do. But I don’t think they have to pull titles down just because of a few complaints. Frankly, I think there weren’t even any complaints…

TIME

State media censors in Singapore have banned the sale of an Archie comic book for its frank presentation of gay marriage, a matter that remains socially taboo and legally verboten in Southeast Asia’s most developed state.

Singapore’s Media Development Authority (MDA) censored the comic book, first published in January 2012, earlier this year, but the ban is only just now coming to light — a week after another state agency removed three children’s books promoting tolerance of same-sex relationships from the national library’s shelves.

The third installment in Archie: The Married Life, one of several spinoff series in the multifarious Archie universe, features the wedding of Kevin Keller, a gay character whose creation in 2010 earned writer Dan Parent a GLAAD Media Award last year. (In the latest volume, Archie dies taking a bullet for Kevin, now a U.S. Senator.)

As critic Alyssa Rosenberg noted Wednesday in The Washington Post

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Modern-Day Singapore Pays a Price for Globalization

Well, that’s a pretty accurate summary of the state of Singapore. Perfectly crafted for the modern world by one party, with whom a majority of Singaporeans entrust the country to wholeheartedly. A rash of First-World-Problems have decreased the support, but not enough to see them ever going out of power any time soon.

Do we have an identity? That’s a question that’s often pondered, and never really answered. There’s no singular defining thing about Singapore other than its efficiency, its modernity. Culture? History? Traditions? We’re a melting pot that didn’t combine the myriad cultures of the different races together; we forced the modern world upon every culture. Can we really expect to have a proper identity after that, beyond calling ourselves ‘Singaporean’?

Oh well, with Western ideals imprinted into our minds as the best sort of thinking, individualism rules. And who needs an identity binding the citizens of Singapore together, when we can be prosperous individuals living on an island nation with everything one could want in a modern lifestyle?

TIME

You land at Changi Airport after flying for what seems a lifetime, and you’re disoriented even before you hit the customs booths with bowls of mints, dire warnings about the death penalty for those bringing in drugs, and digital comment cards asking if the service was to your liking.

Duck into a public restroom and you’ll be exhorted to aim carefully and to “flush with oomph” for the sake of cleanliness. Outside, it’s tropical sticky but impeccably clean, in a city is inhabited by Chinese, Malays, Indians, and guest workers from around the world—all speaking English.

Singapore is an assault on one’s preconceptions.

Singapore calls itself the Lion City, but it would be more accurate to call it the Canary City—the canary in globalization’s gold mine. Arguably no other place on earth has so engineered itself to prosper from globalization—and succeeded at it. The small island nation of 5 million…

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S’pore’s Media Model ‘Makes Sense’ for Country

http://www.straitstimes.com/news/singapore/more-singapore-stories/story/spores-media-model-makes-sense-country-pm-20140410

So all that stuff about control and mediation of content on the internet, is so that we only get the information that you believe is correct and responsibly reported? That’s a huge assumption that Singaporeans can’t tell for themselves whether the content they are viewing is legitimate or not. It’s also awfully presumptuous for the government to think that it knows better than us when it comes to information, and that the government is responsible enough to feed us the right information.

So, what if our government turns corrupt? The potential for governmental abuse in this model is too high. North Korea controls its media too, blaring out propaganda everywhere, at all times. How is this not a step in that direction? May I remind our dear government that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

And seriously, we’re not stupid. Consumers on the internet are usually of the younger generation anyway, and we have enough education to be able to discern the ‘rightness’ of whatever we see.

Additionally, the government even controls websites where people discuss politics. Politics is about having different views, and coming to a compromise over those views. Not to enforce ONE single point of view.

And all that talk about developing our arts scene? If you continue to cut huge chunks out of films, when those scenes may be integral to the themes and artistic expressions of the director, then I don’t see how that’s helpful to our understanding and appreciation of different art forms. Sex scenes are not always put into movies for the sake of sales. I mean, just look at Nymphomaniac. I bet it’ll never air in Singapore because it’s all about sex, despite the fact that it may well be a grand work of art. And violence too, may be crucial to the expression of certain ideas. Look at Django Unchained. The violence is there to emphasize the inhumanity of slavery, and to make an exaggerated account of the protagonist. It’s Tarantino’s way of expressing himself.

Seriously, just slap labels on films and make sure cinemas keep underage people out of the cinemas if you’re so paranoid about exposure of ‘wrong’ values to people. Unless you think 21-year-olds will somehow get negatively influenced by the exaggerated, bloody fight scenes in Kill Bill, and go on rampages. That’s the same stupid argument anti-video games people make, and every scientific study done so far has not conclusively proven for either side of the debate.

I call bullshit on all these things, and this ‘model’ of media control that S’pore has. And with that, I await for the police to come to my home and arrest me under the ISA.

Another MRT Failure

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/1-700-passengers-affected/1024210.html

Well done. I think it’s mighty ironic that the Downtown Line is down due to a power fault, a problem with the Uninterruptible Power System. For all the supposed checking of the DTL to ensure that it will function smoothly, it broke down, I think 3 times in the first week of operation.

Sure, we probably have one of the most efficient transport systems in the world, even taking into account these now-common breakdowns. But this just looks terrible from the outside, and it’s probably not that difficult to invest into maintenance and servicing of the system, instead of advertisements and trying to build the retail ecosystem.

And fining SBS Transit and SMRT hasn’t don’t a damn thing to improve matters. The fines are largely symbolic, don’t actually take out anything from the two companies’ coffers, and only makes the public more sceptical about the government’s ability to ensure that public transport is running properly. All the publicity about the minister taking MRTs? Again, easily recognised as publicity stunts. Show us more than just ‘accessing’ the quality of the system; doing nothing at all on the outside might even be preferable than this.

My solution? Nationalise the companies. I know Singapore likes to privatise companies that provide critical services for the public, such as hospitals. Making them businesses is a good idea in theory, as they create competitiveness that results in a better system for the customers, i.e. the public. But fares have been rising without any improvement in service, and really, hospitals setting up tents as ‘buffer’? That’s just ridiculous.

Of course, that hinges on the hope that the government can run it better than a bunch of businessmen who clearly care more about profits than customer satisfaction. If the bureaucracy can’t deal with the running of our public transport system, then we might as well be resigned to a world-class transport system that breaks down embarrassingly often.